Later On

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Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Category

Spyware Sold to Mexican Government Targeted International Officials

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The Mexican government seems actively hostile to its citizens and actively supportive of drug cartels and their murders. Indeed, the Mexican government seems to have become a criminal gang itself. Azam Ahmed reports in the NY Times:

A team of international investigators brought to Mexico to unravel one of the nation’s gravest human rights atrocities was targeted with sophisticated surveillance technology sold to the Mexican government to spy on criminals and terrorists.

The spying took place during what the investigators call a broad campaign of harassment and interference that prevented them from solving the haunting case of 43 students who disappeared after clashing with the police nearly three years ago.

Appointed by an international commission that polices human rights in the Americas, the investigators say they were quickly met with stonewalling by the Mexican government, a refusal to turn over documents or grant vital interviews, and even a retaliatory criminal investigation.

Now, forensic evidence shows that the international investigators were being targeted by advanced surveillance technology as well.

The main contact person for the group of investigators received text messages laced with spyware known as Pegasus, a cyberweapon that the government of Mexico spent tens of millions of dollars to acquire, according to an independent analysis. The coordinator’s phone was used by nearly all members of the group, often serving as a nexus of communication among the investigators, their sources, the international commission that appointed them and the Mexican government.

Beyond that, the investigators say they received identical text messages on their own phones, too, luring them to click on links that secretly unlock a target’s smartphone and turn it into a powerful surveillance device. Calls, emails, text messages, calendars and contacts can all be monitored that way. Encrypted messages become worthless. Even the microphone and camera on a smartphone can be used against its owner.

The effort to spy on international officials adds to a sweeping espionage offensive in Mexico, where some of the country’s most prominent journalists, human rights lawyers and anticorruption activists have been the targets of the same surveillance technology. But the new evidence shows that the spying campaign went beyond the nation’s domestic critics.

It also swept up international officials who had been granted a status akin to diplomatic immunity as well as unprecedented access to investigate a case that has come to define the nation’s broken rule of law — and the legacy of its president, Enrique Peña Nieto.

Surveillance under Mexican law can be conducted only with the authorization of a federal judge, and only if the government can show cause to do so. But the kind of diplomatic immunity the investigators received meant that it was extremely unlikely that a federal judge would have been allowed to sign off on such a warrant, the investigators said.

“You are not just hacking anyone’s phone, you are hacking the phone of someone who has been granted immunity,” said Francisco Cox, one of the investigators and a prominent Chilean lawyer. “They couldn’t even search my bags in the airport.”

“If this can happen to an independent body that has immunity and that is invited by the government, it is a bit scary to think of what could happen to a common citizen in Mexico,” he said.

Since 2011, Mexico has purchased at least $80 million worth of the spyware, which is sold exclusively to governments, and only on the condition that it be used against terrorists and criminals. But an investigation by The New York Times and forensic cyberanalysts in recent weeks determined that the software had been used against some of the country’s most influential academics, lawyers, journalists and their family members, including a teenage boy.

The government has denied responsibility for the espionage, adding that there is no ironclad proof because the spyware does not leave behind the hacker’s individual fingerprints. It has promised a thorough investigation, vowing to call on specialists from the United Nations and the F.B.I. for help. One of the surveillance targets, the forensic analysis showed, was a United States lawyer representing victims of sexual assault by the Mexican police.

But the United States ambassador to Mexico, Roberta S. Jacobson, said the United States was not involved in the investigation. Opposition lawmakers and international officials are now calling for an independent inquiry into the spying scandal, declaring Mexico unfit to investigate itself.

“This case just on its face — and presuming the veracity of the allegations — is serious enough to warrant the creation of an international commission,” said James L. Cavallaro, a commissioner on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which appointed the group of experts. “The commission shares the concerns of others: How can the government be trusted to investigate its own alleged violation of citizen rights given its track record in this matter?”

Another commissioner, Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, backed the idea of an independent inquiry. “This investigation should find both the material and intellectual authors of the alleged spying,” she said.

Top officials from the nation’s main opposition party have come forward to say that they, too, have been targeted, raising the pressure on the government. The head of the National Action Party, Ricardo Anaya, says his party is pushing for a congressional committee to conduct its own inquiry and will also formally demand an international investigation into the spying.

“The grand tragedy of Mexico is impunity. Horrible things occur, and nothing happens,” he said. “This time, we will not let that happen.”. . .

Continue reading.

I have to admit that I am not optimistic. The rot seems too deep, too entrenched, and backed by forces that have too much power.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 July 2017 at 10:39 am

SCOTUS allows some limits on travel from some Muslim countries (those which no terrorist has ever attacked the US)

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In the meantime, travel from Saudi Arabia (home to 15 of 19 9/11 terrorists) is not restricted at all.

What’s weird is that the decision is now beside the point, or should be. The idea of the restriction was to allow the Trump Administration to define extreme vetting procedures, which they said would take at the most 120 days. That time has long since expired, so no travel ban is needed since presumably the new vetting procedures are in place—except, of course, they’re not: the Trump Administration can’t get anything done due to a bad combination of infighting and incompetence.

NY Times report here.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 June 2017 at 9:12 am

It’s worse than we thought: A Cyberattack ‘the World Isn’t Ready For’

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Nicole Perlroth has a frightening report in the NY Times:

There have been times over the last two months when Golan Ben-Oni has felt like a voice in the wilderness.

On April 29, someone hit his employer, IDT Corporation, with two cyberweapons that had been stolen from the National Security Agency. Mr. Ben-Oni, the global chief information officer at IDT, was able to fend them off, but the attack left him distraught.

In 22 years of dealing with hackers of every sort, he had never seen anything like it. Who was behind it? How did they evade all of his defenses? How many others had been attacked but did not know it?

Since then, Mr. Ben-Oni has been sounding alarm bells, calling anyone who will listen at the White House, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New Jersey attorney general’s office and the top cybersecurity companies in the country to warn them about an attack that may still be invisibly striking victims undetected around the world.

(p>And he is determined to track down whoever did it.

“I don’t pursue every attacker, just the ones that piss me off,” Mr. Ben-Oni told me recently over lentils in his office, which was strewn with empty Red Bull cans. “This pissed me off and, more importantly, it pissed my wife off, which is the real litmus test.”

Two weeks after IDT was hit, the cyberattack known as WannaCry ravaged computers at hospitals in England, universities in China, rail systems in Germany, even auto plants in Japan. No doubt it was destructive. But what Mr. Ben-Oni had witnessed was much worse, and with all eyes on the WannaCry destruction, few seemed to be paying attention to the attack on IDT’s systems — and most likely others around the world.

The strike on IDT, a conglomerate with headquarters in a nondescript gray building here with views of the Manhattan skyline 15 miles away, was similar to WannaCry in one way: Hackers locked up IDT data and demanded a ransom to unlock it.

But the ransom demand was just a smoke screen for a far more invasive attack that stole employee credentials. With those credentials in hand, hackers could have run free through the company’s computer network, taking confidential information or destroying machines.

Worse, the assault, which has never been reported before, was not spotted by some of the nation’s leading cybersecurity products, the top security engineers at its biggest tech companies, government intelligence analysts or the F.B.I., which remains consumed with the WannaCry attack.

Were it not for a digital black box that recorded everything on IDT’s network, along with Mr. Ben-Oni’s tenacity, the attack might have gone unnoticed.

Scans for the two hacking tools used against IDT indicate that the company is not alone. In fact, tens of thousands of computer systems all over the world have been “backdoored” by the same N.S.A. weapons. Mr. Ben-Oni and other security researchers worry that many of those other infected computers are connected to transportation networks, hospitals, water treatment plants and other utilities.

An attack on those systems, they warn, could put lives at risk. And Mr. Ben-Oni, fortified with adrenaline, Red Bull and the house beats of Deadmau5, the Canadian record producer, said he would not stop until the attacks had been shut down and those responsible were behind bars.

“The world is burning about WannaCry, but this is a nuclear bomb compared to WannaCry,” Mr. Ben-Oni said. “This is different. It’s a lot worse. It steals credentials. You can’t catch it, and it’s happening right under our noses.”

And, he added, “The world isn’t ready for this.”

Targeting the Nerve Center . . .

Continue reading.

It gets worse. Later:

. . , No one he has spoken to knows whether they have been hit, but just this month, restaurants across the United States reported being hit with similar attacks that were undetected by antivirus systems. There are now YouTube videos showing criminals how to attack systems using the very same N.S.A. tools used against IDT, and Metasploit, an automated hacking tool, now allows anyone to carry out these attacks with the click of a button.

Worse still, Mr. Ben-Oni said, “No one is running point on this.” . . .

Later:

. . . Last month, he personally briefed the F.B.I. analyst in charge of investigating the WannaCry attack. He was told that the agency had been specifically tasked with WannaCry, and that even though the attack on his company was more invasive and sophisticated, it was still technically something else, and therefore the F.B.I. could not take on his case.

The F.B.I. did not respond to requests for comment. . .

The US will be destroyed because of bureaucratic turf issues.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2017 at 8:37 pm

The link between domestic violence and mass shootings

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Jane Mayer writes in the New Yorker:

Within hours of the shooting of the House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise, and four others, one couldn’t help but feel tired watching the predictable brief moment of political unity. The country has been through enough horrors to know that political adversaries will soon line up and take their battle stations on Twitter and talk shows as no solutions are found and no lessons are learned. They will blame each other’s political ideologies and rhetoric for the bloodshed. It won’t be long until the conspiracy theorists come along and throw doubt on whether the facts are the facts, or something more sinister.

No one wants to talk policy reform so soon, but there’s one that is glaringly necessary, and really ought not to be divisive. Wednesday’s shooter, James Hodgkinson, reportedly had a history of domestic violence. Yet he was able to legally obtain an assault rifle. These two facts are incompatible with public safety.

The Daily Beast reported, on Wednesday:

In 2006, he was arrested for domestic battery and discharge of a firearm after he stormed into a neighbor’s home where his teenage foster daughter was visiting with a friend. In a skirmish, he punched his foster daughter’s then 19-year-old friend Aimee Moreland “in the face with a closed fist,” according to a police report reviewed by The Daily Beast. When Moreland’s boyfriend walked outside of the residence where Moreland and Hodgkinson’s foster daughter were, he allegedly aimed a shotgun at the boyfriend and later fired one round. The Hodgkinsons later lost custody of that foster daughter.

“[Hodgkinson] fired a couple of warning shots and then hit my boyfriend with the butt of the gun,” Moreland told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. Hodgkinson was also “observed throwing” his daughter “around the bedroom,” the police report said. After the girl broke free, Hodgkinson followed and “started hitting her arms, pulling her hair, and started grabbing her off the bed.”

In this, Hodgkinson fits a pattern. As Rebecca Traister has written, for New York magazine, “what perpetrators of terrorist attacks turn out to often have in common more than any particular religion or ideology, are histories of domestic violence.” Traister cites Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who drove a truck through a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, last summer, and Omar Mateen, the Pulse night-club shooter. She also cites Robert Lewis Dear, who killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, in 2015. According to Traister, “two of his three ex-wives reportedly accused him of domestic abuse, and he had been arrested in 1992 for rape and sexual violence.”

Last year, Amanda Taub also wrote powerfully on this issue in the Times. “Cedric Ford shot 17 people at his Kansas workplace, killing three, only 90 minutes after being served with a restraining order sought by his ex-girlfriend, who said he had abused her,” Taub wrote. “And Man Haron Monis, who holed up with hostages for 17 hours in a cafe in Sydney, Australia, in 2014, an episode that left two people dead and four wounded, had terrorized his ex-wife. He had threatened to harm her if she left him, and was eventually charged with organizing her murder.”

Obviously, not everyone accused of domestic violence becomes a mass shooter. But it’s clear that an alarming number of those who have been accused of domestic abuse pose serious and often a lethal threats, not just to their intimate partners but to society at large.

The statistical correlation between domestic violence and mass shootings has also been documented. As the Times reported:

When Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group, analyzed F.B.I. data on mass shootings from 2009 to 2015, it found that 57 percent of the cases included a spouse, former spouse or other family member among the victims — and that 16 percent of the attackers had previously been charged with domestic violence.

In the meantime, many domestic-violence suspects, like Hodgkinson, are arrested only to have the charges dropped later, which leaves them armed and dangerous. The National Rifle Association and its allies have successfully argued that a mere arrest on domestic-violence charges—such as Hodgkinson had—is not sufficient reason to deprive a citizen of his right to bear arms.

After the Sandy Hook massacre, in 2012, an overwhelming majority of Americans favored tighter gun control, including laws that would require background checks for gun purchasers to be extended to sales at private gun shows. Yet a bill proposing that very measure failed to make it through Congress. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 June 2017 at 1:59 pm

Saudi Arabia is destabilizing the world

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And Trump is selling them $100 billion worth of arms. The Saudis export terrorism-seeds in the form of Wahhabism, and it flowers in many countries. Here it’s taken root in Indonesia, as reported by Stephen Kinzer in the Boston Globe:

JUST A FEW months ago, the governor of Indonesia’s largest city, Jakarta, seemed headed for easy re-election despite the fact that he is a Christian in a mostly Muslim country. Suddenly everything went violently wrong. Using the pretext of an offhand remark the governor made about the Koran, masses of enraged Muslims took to the streets to denounce him. In short order he lost the election, was arrested, charged with blasphemy, and sentenced to two years in prison.

This episode is especially alarming because Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, has long been one of its most tolerant. Indonesian Islam, like most belief systems on that vast archipelago, is syncretic, gentle, and open-minded. The stunning fall of Jakarta’s governor reflects the opposite: intolerance, sectarian hatred, and contempt for democracy. Fundamentalism is surging in Indonesia. This did not happen naturally.

Saudi Arabia has been working for decades to pull Indonesia away from moderate Islam and toward the austere Wahhabi form that is state religion in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis’ campaign has been patient, multi-faceted, and lavishly financed. It mirrors others they have waged in Muslim countries across Asia and Africa.

Successive American presidents have assured us that Saudi Arabia is our friend and wishes us well. Yet we know that Osama bin Laden and most of his 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, and that, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in a diplomatic cable eight years ago, “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

Recent events in Indonesia shine a light on a Saudi project that is even more pernicious than financing terrorists. Saudi Arabia has used its wealth, much of which comes from the United States, to turn entire nations into hotbeds of radical Islam. By refusing to protest or even officially acknowledge this far-reaching project, we finance our own assassins — and global terror.

The center of Saudi Arabia’s campaign to convert Indonesians to Wahhabi Islam is a tuition-free university in Jakarta known by the acronym LIPIA. All instruction is in Arabic, given mainly by preachers from Saudi Arabia and nearby countries. Genders are kept apart; strict dress codes are enforced; and music, television, and “loud laughter” are forbidden. Students learn an ultra-conservative form of Islam that favors hand amputation for thieves, stoning for adulterers, and death for gays and blasphemers. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2017 at 5:01 pm

AP fact-check says Trump can’t be trusted

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The Associated Press is aggressively non-partisan, so their statement about Trump is all the stronger. Jonathan Easley reports in The Hill:

The Associated Press fact-checked President Trump’s weekend tweets and warned readers that the president can’t be relied upon for accurate information during a terrorist attack, an unusual move that is sure to spark new tension between the White House and the media.

In a Monday morning story, the AP said Trump “got ahead of the facts” during Saturday’s terror attack in London, when assailants in a truck drove into a crowd before leaving the vehicle to stab and slash at people in a market near London Bridge.

Details about the attack were scant when Trump retweeted a tweet from the conservative Drudge Report: “Fears of new terror attack after van ‘mows down 20 people’ on London Bridge.”

Trump followed the Drudge tweet with his own declaration that the London attack was evidence that U.S. courts must validate his temporary ban on immigrants from six predominantly Muslim countries.

The AP argued that it is not yet known what country the London attackers come from and so it can’t be determined whether the travel ban would have done anything to prevent it.

The AP noted that Trump’s own administration has argued that his controversial executive order is not a “ban,” a notion that Trump undercut with his tweet.

“Trump’s tweet directly contradicted an earlier statement by his homeland security secretary that the travel restrictions blocked by U.S. courts do not constitute a ban,” the AP said.

The AP also accused Trump of mischaracterizing statements made by London Mayor Sadiq Khan in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

In an interview with the BBC, Khan said that the “threat level remains at severe” but that there is “no need to be alarmed” at the heavier-than-usual police presence in the streets. British police have been conducting raids throughout the city and have made dozens of arrests.

The AP noted that last week Trump had improperly labeled a recent shooting attack at a casino in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, which left nearly 40 dead, as terrorism. It is now believed that the attacker was motivated by gambling debt.

From there, the AP embarked on a wholesale review of recent remarks Trump has made, some more nebulous than other.

The AP hit Trump for a Rose Garden speech in which he announced the U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate accord. In that speech, Trump declared that he was “elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

“That may be so, but Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, is not Trump country,” the AP said. “It voted overwhelmingly for Democrat Hillary Clinton in November, favoring her by a margin of 56 percent to Trump’s 40 percent.”

And it dismissed Trump’s recent claim that there has been “absolutely tremendous economic progress since Election Day” with the addition of “more than a million private-sector jobs.”

“The number is about right, but it in no way counts as ‘absolutely tremendous economic progress,’ ” the AP said. “Private-sector job creation from October through April (171,000 private-sector jobs a month) actually lags just slightly behind the pace of job creation for the previous six months (172,000), which came under President Barack Obama.”

Trump has repeatedly railed against a media that he accuses of reporting “fake news.” He has singled out some reporters from CNN, The New York Times and other outlets for criticism, and his supporters have also lambasted the press.  . .

Continue reading.

We have as president of the United States a man who is unfit to be a student body president. Dark days for the Republic.

You’ll note that Trump skipped his big Pittsburgh rally in order to play golf yet again.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2017 at 9:00 am

Silence can speak volumes

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Kevin Drum notes:

The State Department held a briefing today. Dave Clark, a reporter for Agence France Presse, asked acting assistant secretary Stuart Jones a pointed question about President Trump criticizing Iranian democracy while standing next to officials of Saudi Arabia—not exactly a beacon of democracy itself. “How do you characterize Saudi Arabia’s commitment to democracy?” he asked. Is democracy a barrier against extremism? Here’s the reply:

It’s worth noting that almost all the terrorists of 9/11 (15 of the 19) came from Saudi Arabia, not Iran.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 May 2017 at 4:09 pm

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